New York creates battery storage fire safety working group

New York creates battery storage fire safety working group
Lithium battery on fire. Image courtesy 123rf

New York governor Kathy Hochul announced the creation of a new Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group meant to ensure the safety and security of energy storage systems across the state, following fire incidents at facilities in Jefferson, Orange, and Suffolk Counties this summer.

State agencies will begin immediate inspections of energy storage sites, and the working group is intended to help prevent fires and ensure emergency responders have the necessary training and information to prepare and deploy resources in the event of a fire.

“Following multiple fire safety incidents across New York, I’ve directed State agencies to immediately form the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group to mobilize the personnel and resources necessary to keep New Yorkers safe,” Governor Hochul said. “The Working Group will collaborate with first responders and local leaders to identify best practices, address potential risks to public safety, and ensure energy storage sites across New York are safe and effective.”

Three notable fires occurred at New York energy facilities this summer. A fire at an energy storage system in Warwick burned for multiple days in June, a battery fire at a solar farm in Jefferson County raised concerns of possible air contamination in July, and an energy storage system at an East Hampton substation caught fire in July.

In 2019, New York state committed to adding 3,000MW of Energy Storage by 2030, among other energy and climate goals, as part of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

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The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) staff and the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Emergency Response Unit responded to the Jefferson County incident and supported emergency response partners with performing precautionary air monitoring tests in the surrounding area of the fire.

While fires at energy storage facilities are exceedingly rare, Hochul has directed the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office of Fire Prevention and Control, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Public Service, and the Department of State to lead the working group to independently examine energy storage facility fires and safety standards. The group will leverage experts and national laboratories in energy storage root cause and emergency response analyses to independently assess and identify common causes, air monitoring results or other community impacts, and other factors involved with energy storage fires.

The working group will investigate the recent energy storage fires in New York and will conduct a fire safety review, including emergency response analysis, of energy storage projects that experienced thermal runaway events across New York. Findings will include a list of recommendations for stationary energy storage equipment and installations. The working group would review energy storage system operations and operators as they examine the condition of their batteries to verify operation within design parameters; remedy any deficiencies identified; verify operation of on-site fire suppression; and confirm fire suppression plans with local fire departments, among other best practices.

The findings and resulting recommendations will also be shared with the New York City Fire Department, National Fire Protection Association, International Code Council, the New York State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council, and Underwriters Laboratories, establishing New York as a national and international leader in fire safety and stationary energy storage systems.

Originally published on Power Grid.